Finding beta users for SaaS - when is too soon?

I'm building a SaaS (https://kirnu.io, feel free to check out) platform and approaching beta testing little by little. As of yet, I have not made a lot of public promotion and have primarily focused on promotion in my personal network which has yielded some success.

My main reason for the lack of wider public promotion is, that I am primarily interested in finding a small group of beta testers with whom I could have a real two-way dialogue during the development.

Therefore I am really looking forward to directly emailing / calling / contacting potential beta users (SaaS companies' founders, CTOs, customer success managers, ...). So far, I have put that off as it might be another month or so until we are beta ready. My thinking is that cold approaching potential users would be much more effective, if I had the possibility to say that the beta is ready whenever they are as opposed to having to say that it might be two, four or six weeks. With personal connections that is easier, as you have already built rapport.

How do you feel about this? When is the right time to approach potential users directly regarding beta testing?

  1. 4

    The right time is probably yesterday or the day before ;)

    Don't hesitate to approach users, as soon as you can. The worst that can happen is that they are not interested. Aside from bruising your ego, it's no drama and you can actually get valuable information as to why they are not interested.

    Generally speaking, don't fear 'reputational' or 'brand' damage. You are too small for that yet.

    The earlier you get out there the better. Just be crystal clear in terms of your product being in Beta version - this way you manage expectations and you get leniency in case your users encounter glitches.

    When we launched keypup.io a few months back, the product was not even 100% built - and it was addressing the developers market, so quite a demanding crowd. But by humbly stating it was still work-in-progress Alpha version, we actually got plenty of great feedback and excellent morale support.

    If you are genuine and you do not try to "oversell" to people, you might be surprised how kind and helpful they actually can be!

    Good luck!

    1. 2

      Thank you for the thoughtful message and sharing your experience! I totally agree, at this stage the notion of "no bad publicity" applies stronger than ever.

  2. 3

    The answer to any question regarding when you should approach potential users is always: YESTERDAY.

  3. 3

    I just went through the same situation that you described. I'm currently working with beta users on my product (https://mycheckins.io). I did not do any marketing or sign-up efforts before the beta product was ready. I jumped into it just last week.

    My advice is, getting a head-start never hurts. There is no shortage of potential users. Even if you lose out some folks due to the wait time, you're still net positive. Just quote a time that you're absolutely sure about, and make sure you follow up like clockwork.

    You can start now. Get your landing page in the best shape possible (let me know if I can share some feedback!), practice your outreach methods, pick your channels, and setup your process. This will massively help when your beta is ready because you'll hit the ground running.

    If you feel like someone is too important or a very high-priority user, you can put them in the backlog and reach out to them once your product is up.

    Go for it!

    1. 1

      I feel like you have described the dilemma I am facing perfectly! Prioritizing the contacting of potential users definitely seems like a good idea. Converting users is a skill like any other, and can be trained gradually.

      Seeing the style and design of your landing page for MyCheckins, I would appreciate your feedback, indeed.

  4. 3

    I would suggest building up an email list then start talking to everyone of them. The reason being not everyone would reply but 10% of a 100 emails list would help tremendously.

    Maybe you can get some inspiration from these:

    📚 Case Studies

    A solo-founder attracted over 1,000 email subscribers with a lead magnet to build her business to over $4k MRR in 8 months.

    Another solo-founder shared his successful strategies on Reddit in getting 1000 subscribers in less than 4 months.

    Samuel Briskar created a video using basic wireframes to get 400 signups and 5 initial sales of a product that is yet to exist.

    Using Twitter and good old PR strategies, this founder gained more than 4k subscribers and over 100k visits to his site in 1.5 months.

    This couple raked in more than $300,000 in sales within 48 hours by building up an email list of over 3000 interested users in a few weeks.

    A solo founder got 100 signups and 10 pre-sales to his newsletter subscription business before launch.

    This SaaS founder went on a quest to get 100 beta users in a month, and he succeeded.

    No money spent. 10 customers. Check out the strategies of this founder.

    Leveraging on Github to get 500 paying customers? Find out what this SaaS founder did.

    Good luck!

    1. 1

      Good tips, thank you!

  5. 2

    Needless to say, I agree with what the majority of the people here in the comments section are saying. The sooner you put your products in front of your users, the better.

    However, I do want to acknowledge that overcoming your own maker's pride can be quite painful. I am going through the very same process scaling Adflow.ai to the first users and there is just so much more value I'd love my customers to be able to get from the product. I have to accept that that value will be available to them as we get closer to our vision over time.

    However, the feedback loop with your users will more than make it up for it, or at least this is our experience at the moment.

    Best of luck 🤞

    1. 2

      Also @oskarif, we are a SaaS company at Adflow.ai, feel free to DM me on twitter if you'd like to pick my brain 😃.

  6. 2

    I'd highly reccommend getting a start on it now. Often times it's unclear which market the product work well with.

    Also, sending cold emails/cold calling will enable you to refine your pitch and really hone in on what works.

    ps - you're welcome to use my startup GODSEND to find your initial customers and reach out them!

    1. 1

      Seems that the overall verdict is leaning towards starting sooner than later!

      Neat product - I will take a closer look after exhausting my primary sources for leads.

  7. 2

    never too soon to start building relationships with folks!

    1. 2

      I fully agree, but at the same time I feel like it is easier to build a relationship if you have something tangible to offer. Being able to offer something of value now rather than later would be a better start to a new connection.

      1. 1

        ... lol! but you have something to offer... even if you don't have a product!

        ... you can start by understanding their problem. that's a great place to start.

  8. 1

    Hi. Do you want to try our beta testing service https://qaprovider.com/ ?
    Contact me through a web site if you are interested and we will arrange beta users for you.

    1. 1

      We are primarily looking for beta users who represent our potential base (SaaS companies), as opposed to "traditional" beta testing of our application and its functionality. I understood, that you are more focused on the latter. Thank you for the thought, however!

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